Understanding C3 Zoning in NYC and Beyond

By Senior WriterPublished On: February 16, 20223.3 min read

In New York City, there are eight different commercial zoning districts, ranging from C1 through C8. Each district represents a different set of commercial properties that are allowed to be built. Of course, there are exceptions, and zoning permits are always needed for new developments. Different districts regulate function like what type of business can be conducted in that area and what size the commercial property is allowed to be.

However, in different cities, the zoning laws are vastly different, and C3 zoning in one city could mean something different than what it means in New York. In general, C3 zoning permits and regulates heavy commercial use. While this article will focus primarily on C3 zones in New York City, it’s a good idea to check your own local zoning laws to determine what C3 means for you in your city or town.

What Is C3 Zoning?

“C3 districts only allow commercial uses related to boating and other waterfront recreational activities, such as docks and mooring facilities, bicycle shops and candy stores, in addition to the full range of residential and community facility uses,” according to the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP).

While C1 zones and C2 zones are relegated to select local retail shops, “Once you get to C3, these businesses become more regionally serving,” said Paula Crespo, a Senior Planner at the Pratt Center for Community Development.

However, like C1 and C2 zones, C3 zones also allow for residential properties. The difference is C3 zones are located along waterfront areas, usually next to residential districts. They also allow for aquatic water sports equipment sales and rentals, as well as public and private beaches.

In a landlocked area, C3 zoning still permits heavy commercial uses, but they differ from New York City. For example, in San Antonio, C3 zoning has no limit on building size, and includes businesses like amusement parks, tattoo parlors, hotels, auto and muffler sales (no manufacturing), laundry and dry cleaning and indoor flea markets.

What Regulations Apply to a C3 Zone?

Just like C1 and C2 districts, C3 districts also regulate the floor area ratio (FAR) of a commercial property. In C3 zones, the maximum commercial FAR is 0.5. In C3 zones, buildings cannot be more than two stories or 30 feet high, whichever is less. C3 zones also have off-street parking requirements, but those vary depending on the property.

C3 zoning cannot involve any manufacturing because noise, odor and dust would be disruptive to other businesses. In some cases, however, a conditional use permit can be used to override zoning laws.

How to Find What C3 Means in Your City

To determine what C3 zoning means in your city, you should head to your city’s department of city planning website and look for the zoning codes, which will be clearly listed online. Some cities like New York have a publicly available Zoning Handbook that outlines the different districts and the regulations for each. In the New York City Zoning Handbook, you can find the definition for C3 zones in Chapter 4.

You can also head to the contact page of your local city planning website to reach out to someone directly if you have more questions or concerns.

An Example of a C3 Zoned Property in New York City

An example of a C3 zoned property in New York would be a shop renting jet skis along the water in the Bronx. This is a commercial shop related to “waterfront recreational activities” and is permitted to be there so long as they follow the height and FAR regulations for C3 zones.

C3 Districts in New York are Limited to Waterfronts

In New York City, C3 zones are located in waterfront areas and are specifically for waterfront recreational activities, with some residential and community properties as well. However, every city is different, so be sure to check with your local city planning department to figure out what C3 means in your district.

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